JENMAN African Safaris, in partnership with Madagascar Classic Camping has recently launched the Barefoot Luxury Kayak Adventure, in the beautiful and untouched areas around the St Luce Reserve, in South eastern Madagascar, and I was extremely fortunate to be able to experience this incredible trip with some of Cape Town’ s well-known journalists.
We departed Cape Town for Johannesburg on Saturday morning, the 13th April… It was a band of intrepid and excited adventurers – PR guru Brian and JP, well-known travel-writer Don, well-known photo-journalist Dylan and I all gathered around the Mango check-in. I had managed to fit 18 life jackets and 16 kayak seats into two oversized bags, which were truly enormous and getting many intrigued looks from passers-by (especially as I couldn’t see over the top of the trolley)!
After landing at ORT, we went to find Air Madagascar’s check-in counter. Air Madagascar very kindly had offered to be one of the sponsors for the press trip and had given our group return flights to Antananarivo and Fort Dauphin – for that would be where our great adventure would really begin. (Air Madagascar’s flights depart every Tuesday and Saturday from ORT in Johannesburg, so we had decided to go from a Saturday to Saturday) There we found our tickets all ready and waiting, and Greg, their representative was super in helping with a hassle free check-in… All sorted, we headed to Mugg and Bean for the inevitable coffee, as we eagerly awaited the departure time.
Once on board the Boeing 737, lots of space meant everyone could spread out over a few seats, taking the opportunity for a snooze en route to “Tana” as it is affectionately known. Two of the staff of Madagascar Classic Camping were waiting to meet us on arrival – Both Nicole and Lala were a welcome sight and fantastically helpful (especially when it came to changing money etc. NB… Remember that you must always bring USD or Euros with to Madagascar, and although I did see one counter taking ZAR, it may not always be open!)
We were loaded – bags and cameras and all, into the vehicle, while Lala arranged to take us to our hotel to drop off the bags before heading directly to Café de Gare, our restaurant for the evening.
The restaurant is excellent and definitely one to recommend. It has a great menu, as well as a really interesting toilet (inside an old railway coach)! The service and décor is also excellent – just sad my good friend Salohy was off duty that night…
Lapasoa Hotel was our accommodation for the evening, a quaint Malagasy hotel in the ‘administrative area of the city. The next morning our departure was extremely early as we had to be collected at 6.15am, so no time for the breakfast as we rushed back to Ivato Airport. We managed to grab a coffe and breakfast snack at a funny little restaurant inside the airport, whilst eagerly awaiting our two hour scheduled flight with Air Madagascar to Fort Dauphin, on the south eastern coast of Madagascar.
Upon arrival in Fort Dauphin, a beaming Edd, owner of Madgascar Classic Camping was there to meet us. He did have to wait a bit as we were a bit late getting all the bags loaded up – especially my enormous ones… He had heard about Don’s bag mishap, so kindly offered to take him to the market to see if he could find a long sleeve shirt to kayak in. Brian and JP, had the smallest bags of all of us and managed to furnish Don with everything else, including socks, bug spray and suntan lotion – and not to forget, even a speedo!
We then headed off to Kaleta Hotel to drop our bags before joining Edd for lunch. Our guides for the kayak adventure accompanied us on a short walk to the restaurant, where everyone had a great time. The food was as good as the wonderful view – and a perfect place to start briefing about the next day’s itinerary. We had breakfast at Kaleta which was really nice, while Edd explained that we would start on the river, a little way out of Fort Dauphin, but that overnight the river had risen a bit due to all the rain they had had. We ended up going for a short drive (15-20 mins) out of town, down rural roads and through fascinating villages, en route to the start point.
We were set… after months of preparation, the big day had finally arrived.